A new Greening Australia project in Gippsland’s vibrant Strzelecki Ranges is expanding and relinking vital forest habitat for Australia’s largest gliding possum.
Over the next three years, over 635,000 trees will be planted across 127 ha of private land to support the ranges’ nationally threatened Greater Glider populations.
“Greater Gliders are a measure of the health of our forests. They are a benchmark species because they require significant numbers of hollows and old remnant trees to survive. By linking key patches of old growth forests through revegetation to expand the gliders’ home range, we can create more resilient populations,” says Drew Liepa, Greening Australia Gippsland Project Officer.
Greater Gliders, enchanting velvety-furred marsupials with distinctive large fluffy ears, can glide up to an incredible 100m at a time. They have a highly specialised diet feeding almost exclusively on eucalypt leaves and using between 2-18 hollows for rest and shelter.
“There were no recent records of Greater Gliders in the Strzelecki Ranges but when we considered historical records and anecdotal evidence, we knew they had to be there. This project has already enabled us to register 25 new records. This includes two areas where Greater Gliders have never been recorded before.”
“It’s exciting to think that our project will provide habitat for these gliders and their young, helping to secure this population into the future,” says Mr Liepa.
Though Greater Gliders are a core focus of the project, restoration of the ranges’ wet and damp forests which are home to Mountain Ash, one of the world’s tallest trees, will also benefit a range of other threatened species including the Swamp Antechinus and endemic Strzelecki Gum.
The work will build on Greening Australia’s previous ‘Land of Lyrebird’ project, which worked with local landholders to restore key patches of habitat for wildlife.
Revegetation work is being supplemented with nest boxes installed by experienced tree climbers high up in the statuesque Mountain Ash trees, a favourite of the Greater Glider. During September, fifty nest boxes will be installed on the fringes of known populations and then monitored to trial their effectiveness.
“We have built nest boxes tailored to our Greater Gliders which are larger than those up north. If the trial proves to be successful at taking the pressure off the population in terms of hollow requirements – lack of hollows is one of the biggest threats our Greater Gliders face – then we will look to incorporate nest boxes into our other sites too,” says Mr Liepa.
“The scale of the revegetation works we have been doing, first through Land of the Lyrebird and now this project, is unprecedented in the area. People have been blown away by the number of landholders who have been willing to revegetate. We have plenty more lined up and keen to participate if more funding becomes available.”
Modelling was used to identify and prioritise properties for on-ground work with blocks that served as important connectivity nodes back to core habitat targeted.
Community engagement to increase awareness of Greater Gliders and their habitat needs will form a key role in the project.
“It is time to arrest the decline. We are fortunate enough to have species like Greater Gliders hanging in there. They still occur in isolated pockets in areas and there are concrete actions we can take now to ensure that these species persist in our landscapes forever,” says My Liepa.
If we are all committed – the community, the government, everyone – we can ensure that we can improve their chances.
I want to do this so that in the next twenty years I can say, yes, we’ve made a difference.”
The project is funded through the Australian Government’s 20 Million Trees Programme (part of the National Landcare Program) and forms part of Greening Australia’s flagship Great Southern Landscapes program.